Feb 19, 2020

Mission 2030 Guest Post: Jen Jones of Sam Rayburn ISD on ending the cycle of passive support for financial education

Jennifer Jones ("Jen") is a business and personal finance teacher from Sam Rayburn ISD, a small school district in the far northeast Texas town of Ivanhoe. Sam Rayburn High School is the 6th school in the nation, and the first in Texas, to earn a $10,000 grant from NGPF for successfully adopting a graduation requirement for personal finance. Her quest is one in a series of inspiring stories from NGPF's Gold Standard Challenge Grant Program which incentivizes high schools and districts to commit to ALL students taking personal finance courses before graduation. Learn more, and apply for your $2,500 to $30,000 Gold Standard Challenge Grant before the August 31, 2022 deadline here.

What was the timeline by which you made the change happen?

I started requesting a personal finance class be required six years ago at our district’s Campus Improvement committee meetings.

The proposal was always met with positive responses, and it was even initially added to our campus improvement plan, but until recently the proposal was never acted upon or revisited. 

The main challenges I encountered during this cycle were student scheduling and graduation plans

This pattern of proposal and passive support continued for several years. Some years, I would teach a personal finance course, but other years it wouldn't fit in the schedule, so personal finance was not offered. Because Sam Rayburn High School is a very small school, our master schedule can be difficult to manage. When we already have teachers and curriculum in place, the idea of working personal finance into our schedule and all the students’ graduation plans is overwhelming. It can be a large puzzle to offer all the classes our kids need with the small number of staff we have. In essence, giving this course the energy it deserves at our school has always been a question of limited teaching capacity.

As of this year, however, we have new administration that is excited about the course requirement and will take the steps necessary to work it into our schedule. In addition, fortunately, we have a member of staff (you’re reading a post by her) who is willing to take on full student enrollment in the course.

What were the catalysts for change that finally allowed your proposal to be successful?

A new administration and NGPF’s Gold Standard Challenge grant program were the main catalysts for change that really transformed the possibility of getting this done.

Before this fall, I encountered what I hear from a lot of other teachers who care about personal finance: the response I got to a new required course was always positive but not proactive.

In other words, my proposal was always verbally supported, but no formal steps were ever taken to make it a requirement. 

The new leadership team at my school was open to changing the schedule to include another required course because they were excited by this course’s potential impact. The idea of a sizable grant spurred our district into action to make the course a requirement in just a few short months. I can't wait to get started!

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